Their lives turned upside down, lava evacuees learn the value of a clean shirt

Their lives turned upside down, lava evacuees learn the value of a clean shirt

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Inside Pahoa Suds and Duds, Dean Krakauer carefully divvied up clothes into a couple washing machines.

"All my work clothes. They smell like sulfur," said Krakauer.

A few months ago, the Leilani Estates resident would have never imagined doing laundry anywhere but at home.

"We owned the place outright. No rent," said Krakauer. "Now I'm paying $1,200 a month rent. It's horrible."

And the laundromat has become part of his new routine. He says it ends up costing close to $100 a month.

That adds up, which is why the community came together to donate to a laundry voucher program for lava evacuees.

"Originally we were just helping out people we knew had been displaced," said Russell Bellman, part owner of the laundromat.

But six weeks ago, the pastor of Puna Baptist Church asked if he could do more. "We told them we'd do it at cost," said Bellman.

And that's how the voucher program was born.

Want to help? Call Puna Baptist Church at 808-965-9970 or send en email to

On an average week, members of the faith community hand out about $1,000 worth of laundry vouchers at evacuee shelters and Puuhonua O Puna, a central hub for donations and information.

Bellman says up to 60 are redeemed every day.

Down the street, at the evacuee shelter in Pahoa, Rev. Katlin McCallister along with several pastors walked tent to tent offering a free load of laundry accompanied by an understanding ear.

"Just to have that relief that you have something clean to wear, that your kids have something clean to wear, that makes such a big difference," said evacuee Nephi Morgan.

Back at the laundromat, while waiting for his clothes to dry, Dean said his life has been turned upside down.

"These are some pretty mean days to have to face. And go what's my next step?" he said.

Although uncertain, it seems being gifted a voucher went a little way in lifting his spirits.

"I can save for a washer and dryer again," said Krakauer. "A week from now when someone doesn't have enough quarters or they don't have enough soap, I can afford to pass it down."

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